Tim Field, Partner at KOMAND Consulting, coaches JMSB at the 2015 MBA International Case Competition

Concordia international MBA case competition sets the gold standard
Concordia’s international MBA case competition sets the ‘gold standard’
34th edition foregrounds sustainability and global connectivity
NOTE: This story was updated on Thursday, January 8, 2015

The spacious, carpeted byways of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel are abuzz with activity this week as Concordia welcomes more than 150 graduate students from all over the world for the 34th John Molson MBA International Case Competition.

In the words of Tim Field — coach of JMSB’s five-student team, business strategy consultant and senior lecturer in the Department of Management — the annual event is the Olympics of case challenges.

“The level of competition, the level of judging, the level of organization: it’s the gold standard,” he said on Tuesday, fresh from the excitement of his team’s second case presentation to a panel of judges. This year, the student-run competition runs from January 4 to 9; each team presents five cases to qualify for the semi-finals on Thursday, January 8.

Thirty-six teams from 14 countries have descended on Montreal, and so far, says student Alexander Bill from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, the competition is living up to its sterling reputation. “It’s exceptionally well run, I’m very impressed with both the scale and quality.”

JMSB team members Matthew Beck and Elliott Altilia, both avid sports fans, were delighted with the chosen subject for the second case, which challenged the students to develop a business plan for the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. “We wished it had been about hockey not soccer, but we were happy to take what we could get!” Beck said, laughing.

The highlight of the week so far, according to Bill, was a dinner at a downtown restaurant where attendees were required to sit with competitors they hadn’t yet met.

“I was surrounded by four people from four different continents,” he said. “That’s exactly what this case competition is about.” Other events on the schedule include a networking cocktail with industry professionals and an outing to watch the Canadiens play at the Bell Centre.

The theme of the 34th edition of the John Molson MBA International Case Competition is “Global Connections — Sustainable Future.” Roberto Blanc, a JMSB grad student and one of the organizing committee’s four members, explains that as well as creating a strong networking platform, they wanted to bring eco-consciousness to the forefront.

“Our competition is basically a place to foster tomorrow’s business leaders, so they must be aware of their impact in the world,” he says. The 2015 organizers took numerous measures to reduce the competition’s environmental cost, including using vegetable-based ink in their printers; sourcing locally produced, organic food for on-site meals; and planting a tree in the name of each of the 270 judges — all of whom are senior-management-level business professionals.

This year, the alternate members from each school’s team were also invited to apply for a position on a global team. After the line-up was selected, the team prepared for the competition on Skype.

“The global connections element is a reality in today’s business world,” Blanc says. “We work with people who have a different language, different culture and background. And we’re also showing that people are able to work together remotely, and traveling is sometimes not necessary. Teams can achieve results while lessening their carbon footprint.”

During the live case portion of the competition, top executives from a real company present their business case. This year, Lufa Farms — a Montreal company that builds and operates greenhouses on the roofs of industrial buildings — challenged the 36 teams to come up with a plan to grow their business to $100 million in five years. Teams have three hours to prepare their recommendations for the company.

The JMSB team defeated the Münster School of Business and Economics by a score of 26 to 15 in the live case round. The Concordia students also beat the defending champions from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management by a score of 39 to 2 in the fifth and final case of the preliminary round. They will presents their semi-final recommendations to judges Thursday, January 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Room Hochelaga 4 at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

Friday is finals day, when the top three teams in the competition face off against each other for the title. All final presentations are open and free for the public to attend.

It’s too soon to say whether the JMSB team will be in the mix. Either way, as Altilia says, competing in the John Molson MBA International Case Competition is an incredible learning experience.

“You have to come up with real solutions for real business problems in three hours — and you never cease to be amazed. What these people come up with within a very limited time window is astounding.”

Download complete Brochure.

Download Brochure page 55 (Tim Field).

Managing Partner at KOMAND comments on Target’s exit from the Canadian market

Target CanadaLa décision du détaillant Target de se retirer du marché canadien a créé la surprise chez certains spécialistes du commerce de détail, alors que d’autres avaient prévu le coup.

«Oui, c’est une surprise. Target avait son lot de difficultés au Canada. Toutefois, la situation n’était pas si différente de celle de Wal-Mart lorsque la société était arrivée au Canada au début des années ‘90», raconte le professeur titulaire au département de marketing de HEC Montréal, Jacques Nantel.

Ce dernier estime que Target a manqué de patience, entre autres parce qu’elle éprouve des problèmes sur le marché américain. «Je vais peut-être vous surprendre, mais je ne vois pas d’erreur majeure sur la feuille de route du détaillant. Quand on ouvre 133 magasins, c’est clair qu’il faut du temps avant que l’opération soit rentable», estime M. Nantel.

Le professeur concède que la société avait des problèmes de chaîne d’approvisionnement, tout en précisant qu’il ne s’agit pas d’une situation anormale lorsqu’une société de la taille de Target décide de s’implanter dans un nouveau marché.

À son avis, les propriétaires des établissements de Target au Canada, comme RioCan et Cominar, vont subir les contrecoups de cette décision. «Chaque magasin possède une taille de 80 000 à 100 000 pieds carrés. Trouver de nouveaux locataires pour tous ces espaces sera une tâche colossale», dit-il.

M. Nantel soutient que certains établissements pourraient servir d’entrepôts ou de centres de distribution pour tous les produits achetés en ligne.

«Je suis aussi surpris de la décision de Target de quitter le Canada. Bien sûr, il y avait plusieurs indicateurs à l’effet que la situation du détaillant au Canada était difficile. C’était le cas depuis l’ouverture des premiers magasins au pays en mars 2013. C’est une surprise parce que l’entreprise a investi plus de 4 milliards de dollars dans l’aventure. Je croyais que la direction allait vouloir continuer de trouver des solutions à ses problèmes, surtout qu’il s’agissait de sa première expansion à l’extérieur des États-Unis», a affirmé Nasos Makriyiannis, associé directeur chez Komand Consulting et professeur à la John Molson School of Business de l’Université Concordia.

M. Makriyiannis explique que les consommateurs des États-Unis et du Canada ne sont pas si différents. Il soutient que la principale erreur de Target est de ne pas avoir pris le temps de bien se renseigner sur les attentes des consommateurs canadiens: «Avec les mégadonnées (Big Data), plus rien n’empêche les entreprises de bien connaître les marchés dans lesquels elles désirent s’implanter. Par la suite, bien sûr, elles doivent s’assurer de répondre aux besoins qui auront été identifiés», dit-il, ajoutant que les problèmes d’approvisionnement du détaillant n’ont jamais été résolus.

KOMAND’s managing partner discusses teaching at the John Molson School of Business

Montreal, Canada
As the founding and managing partner of a small downtown strategy consulting firm, Nasos Makriyiannis (MBA 06) works long hours. Even so, he makes time each term to teach classes part-time at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.

Eight years into his business venture, he’s still committed. So why sacrifice precious free time for a second job at Concordia? Mainly, he says, because he enjoys it. “There’s a teaching element to consulting, and I’ve always loved that part of it.”

But Makriyiannis also teaches because his two jobs complement each other.

In the classroom, he is able to draw on his experiences with real clients. “One of the large aerospace companies is one of our clients. We provided strategic planning support for this company with thousands of employees, which is essentially the type of cases you study in the strategy course I teach. When I draw examples from our own cases, that I have a lot more information about, it really adds value beyond the textbook.”

It also helps that Makriyiannis can draw on his extensive professional network when he wants to invite guest speakers for his entrepreneurship course. “Most people are happy to do it,” he says. “I’ve had business owners who have sold their companies for tens of millions and they’re more than happy to come in to speak about their experiences.”

Meanwhile, being affiliated with the university also helps Makriyiannis’ management consulting business. For one thing, he can hire students right out of his classes. And when Makriyiannis is undertaking a new project for a client, he can draw on applicable research at JMSB.

“We let our clients know that being connected to a university means we’re up to date with the latest types of management frameworks that we can apply to their challenges,” he says.

Before coming to Montreal to pursue his MBA at Concordia, Makriyiannis worked as a bio-medical engineering consultant in and around Boston. He also spent a year in Detroit working for clients in the automotive industry.

While he enjoyed the technical, engineering side of his previous work, Makriyiannis soon realized he preferred making management-type decisions. “I liked seeing the big picture, the long-term goal. I always cared more about what kind of cars we were going to sell in the future, or who we were going to sell them to. I liked those types of questions more.”

Makriyiannis decided to come to Montreal to pursue his MBA. Among the many clubs and activities he got involved in at JMSB was the Concordia Small Business Consulting Bureau. He credits that experience with being the catalyst for KOMAND Consulting, which he started right after graduation.

“The encouragement and the ability to initiate things on your own and have some support from the school is what stood out for me about Concordia,” Makriyiannis says, adding that when the opportunity presented itself, he was happy to return and serve as a mentor for the next generation of entrepreneurs and strategists.

“My favourite part is actually bumping into my former students and seeing how they’ve progressed in their careers. I find that very fulfilling. I hope I made some contribution.”

Media Contact:
KOMAND Consulting:
Harris Makriyiannis
+971 (50) 156-7650

Saying No: When and How to Do It Right

Being an entrepreneur, especially one just starting up, can be a risky venture. You often don’t know where the next pay cheque will come from or when a client might move on. That’s why many business owners say yes to everything – they want to be busy and they want to get paid.

But there comes a time when “no” is the way to go. In fact, learning how to say no may actually help your business grow. Nasos Makriyiannis, managing director of Montreal-based corporate-strategy advisory firm KOMAND Consulting, explains when to say no to a potential client.

Work Is Outside Of Your Mandate

Don’t take work that doesn’t line up with your company’s mandate. If your business caters to the healthcare industry, don’t take on work for a financial operation. Why not? Because you may not have the skills and insights needed to work in that industry, and acquiring them can, in turn, take up a lot of time and energy. If someone asks Makriyiannis for branding and marketing advice, he’ll politely turn them away. “We’re not experts in those areas,” he says.

You’re Too Busy

Don’t take on work if you’re too swamped. It might seem obvious, but many business owners still say yes, even if they’re stretched to their limits. If you accept a project but can’t deliver properly, then you may lose that client completely. “You won’t have repeat business if you don’t deliver what’s expected,” he says. While you could still lose the client if you say no, if you’re open and up front about your reasons, and they like what you do, then they’ll come back. Just be honest.

Gut Feeling

The more work you do, the easier it will be to know if a project is worth taking on… or declining. Recently, Makriyiannis had to turn down a lucrative contract because he saw potential personal issues arising between the partners who owned the business. He knew that whatever he was going to do probably wouldn’t be good enough for one of the partners, which could lead to conflict and, ultimately, a difficult position for Makriyiannis.

Makriyiannis told the clients that before he could anything with them, they would have to work things out between themselves, and actually recommended they hire someone to help them sort out their problems. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have, but the clients appreciated his honesty – and one of the owners has since called him again, asking for advice on another issue.

While it can be hard to say no, it’s important to get that word into your vocabulary. If you take on something you can’t handle or isn’t right for the company, the work will suffer. And so will your business.

Media Contact:
KOMAND Consulting:
Harris Makriyiannis
+971 (50) 156-7650